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News and Media
Our latest and archived media releases and news articles.
26 May 2016
It will take radical, fresh ideas and new technology to break some New Zealanders of their smoking habit and for smoking prevalence to be less than the Government’s goal of five per cent in New Zealand by 2025.
That is the conclusion of Professor Chris Bullen of the University of Auckland’s National Institute of Health Innovation who has led the New Zealand Tobacco Control Research Tūranga, a five-year study programme by a multi-disciplinary network of researchers from across New Zealand.
“This is New Zealand’s largest-ever study into innovative ways to reduce smoking prevalence. The Tūranga’s brief was to test radical, fresh ideas to tackle the complex health challenge of tobacco smoking; despite decades of effort, many New Zealanders still smoke with huge risks to their health and the health of their whānau,” comments Professor Bullen.
The research network hosted a Symposium: The Tobacco Control Research Tūranga – Ideas, Innovation and Impact in Auckland recently. The symposium brought together researchers from around New Zealand to showcase their projects supported by the Tūranga in the second half of its grant. The Tūranga is a five-million-dollar investment by the Health Research Council of New Zealand and the Ministry of Health.
In the 2013 Census 14 per cent of the total adult population (or 463,194 people) said they smoked. About 5000 Kiwis die each year from disease caused by smoking tobacco.
Professor Bullen says the Tūranga programme has comprised some 31 separate research projects, some of which have already been completed and their findings published in leading journals.
“One way of coming up with new ideas is to draw in people from backgrounds other than the health professions to work with us – people such as engineers, lawyers, economists, and computer scientists; we have found in the Tūranga that some of the most innovative ideas have come when people from different disciplines and perspectives work together.”
Among the projects showcased was one by Te Pora Thomson-Evans of Tukana Teina Consulting. Thomson-Evans discussed the HAA trial (Herehere and Aukati). The project aims to reduce the prevalence and initiation of smoking among Māori through the revitalisation of tikanga aukati (imposed restriction) and the use of Tauhere Ringaringa "hand ties" as a Māori resource.
The very first pilot study of karakia and weaving as smoking cessation tools has now been completed with exceptional results.
One of the Tūranga lead researchers, Associate Professor Marewa Glover of Massey University says there is potential to explore more kaupapa Māori approaches to smoking cessation (i.e. approaches that are grounded in Māori knowledge and ways of doing things through whānau or groups).
Highlighting the importance of new technology to smoking cessation was a presentation by Dr Harvey Ho from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute team at the University of Auckland. Dr Ho talked about a pilot project that aims to bring the mother and the unborn baby closer.
The project team has developed a highly detailed 3D foetus model that can be changed to reflect the dynamic geometric features detected by 4D ultrasounds, so that the mother can see the effect smoking has on the foetus’ facial expressions. The software serves as a powerful educational tool.
University of Auckland researcher Dr Bryan Ruddy, presenting on behalf of Associate Professor Andrew Taberner talked about the development of a needle-free subcutaneous (through the skin) delivery of injected nicotine which aims to support smoking cessation. The device could deliver a cigarette-equivalent dose of nicotine through the skin in a jet of fluid.
The device delivers nicotine faster than a patch and, therefore, is better at satisfying cravings. The device has not yet been tested on humans and is still at the technology development stage. However, the researchers believe it could have application for community treatment centres, prisons or mental health facilities.
News article courtesy of UniServices (University of Auckland)
25 May 2016
The Precision Driven Health Research Partnership is creating the capability to optimise the health of each individual and their whānau by combining and learning from all available data. This will improve health outcomes for New Zealanders, increase health provider efficiency, and enable commercial success.
Precision driven health research aims to:
- Enable commercial success for our partners
- Be recognised for high quality and impact
- Lead to better outcomes for people and whānau
- Enable individuals to manage and improve their health
- Develop New Zealand’s workforce capability and capacity for research
The research partnership addresses four key themes to enable this to become a reality:
1. Broaden the scope of precise, patient-centred healthcare by making new data sources available
2. Use a variety of big data sources for predictive modelling in a healthcare setting
3. Use disparate data sources, analyses, and technologies to enable more precise and timely healthcare
4. Leverage technology to empower all people to self-manage their health
Call for proposals
Proposals are sought to address these themes through research. In this call for proposals, we are particularly looking for projects to establish the fundamentals of the partnership, and set us up for success. This will include:
- Applied research which will deliver insights, health improvement and commercial opportunities quickly
- Research teams collaborating across academia, technology and health sectors
- Projects of a variety of sizes from six months to three years
For the full call for proposals, submission instructions and project template, please visit https://orionhealth.com/nz/overview.
19 May 2016
A world-first therapy for helping smokers quit that uses a nicotine-filled inhaler – similar to what asthmatics use – in combination with a nicotine patch has doubled quit rates compared to smokers using a nicotine patch only.
Lead researcher Professor Julian Crane from the University of Otago, Wellington, and his team developed the pressurized metered-dose inhalers with Auckland-based company Argenta Ltd. They then completed a clinical trial of 502 New Zealand adult smokers with a history of repeated quit attempts.
One group were given the nicotine-filled inhaler and nicotine patch to use for six months while the other group received a placebo inhaler and a nicotine patch. Participants were told to use the inhalers whenever they felt an urge to smoke.
Both the development of the nicotine-filled inhalers and the clinical trial were funded through a Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) project grant worth $1.35 million.
The results from the clinical trial, which were published online this week in the peer-reviewed journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, showed that participants in the nicotine-filled inhaler group were twice as likely to have abstained from smoking over a period of six months than those in the placebo group – where abstinence was defined as not having smoked on seven consecutive days.
HRC Chief Executive Professor Kath McPherson says although New Zealand’s smoking rate is decreasingly slowly, it remains stubbornly high in Māori and Pacific adults and in adults living in the most deprived areas.
“This unique study provides the first evidence that inhaled nicotine from a simple standard inhaler – similar to those used for many decades to help treat asthma – could substantially increase a smoker’s chances of quitting,” she says.
Using the nicotine-filled inhalers and nicotine patches provides a baseline level of nicotine combined with a rapid top up for acute cravings. Professor Crane says the doubling of the smoking quit rates in the trial using this method was especially impressive because the placebo group were already receiving the best current nicotine replacement therapy available. And those using the placebo inhaler plus nicotine patch actually had better quit rates than in many studies of using a nicotine patch alone.
“As nicotine levels begin to drop, people start to crave it. The inhaler seems to fill the gap for people instead of reaching for a cigarette – it provides hand and airway stimulation and a large dose of nicotine,” says Professor Crane.
“The placebo inhaler also has menthol in it to mimic some of the effects of the nicotine-filled inhaler. Menthol reduces the irritant effect of nicotine on the airway – it’s like inhaling a whole lot of peppermint. We think the airway sensation of the menthol might also have helped them to keep off cigarettes.”
The nicotine-filled inhaler wasn’t without its side-effects: most people coughed a lot when they first tried it. However, Professor Crane says their coughing reduced significantly with repeated use, which is exactly what happens when people start smoking.
There is considerable worldwide interest in inhaled nicotine from e-cigarettes, yet there has been little evidence to date as to whether they are effective at reducing smoking or not.
Professor Crane says the inhaler has a distinct advantage over e-cigarettes.
“One of the major criticisms of e-cigarettes is that they imitate smoking behaviours. Our inhaler doesn’t look like a cigarette or mimic smoking behaviours in any way. It can also be used anywhere where you might use an asthma inhaler, including on planes,” he says.
The researchers are now looking into licencing and manufacturing the nicotine-filled inhaler on a large scale so it could be made available to all smokers who would like to use it.
17 May 2016
The government has today announced that the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) will receive a significant new investment of $97 million over the next four years to help fund research that will improve the health and quality of life of all New Zealanders.
The annual amount available for health research through the HRC will increase by 56 per cent from $77m in 2015/16 to $120m in 2019/20.
“I am delighted at the government’s increased commitment to the work of the HRC in making a meaningful difference to the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders, and to our healthcare system and economy, through this new funding,” says HRC Chief Executive Professor Kath McPherson (pictured right with Professor Graham Le Gros, Ministers Steven Joyce and Dr Jonathan Coleman, and Graham Malaghan).
“The research we have invested in over the past 10 years has had a significant impact on people’s health both here and around the world. This new investment is a huge opportunity for us to build on this great work and do even better.”
Professor McPherson says the HRC will now be able to increase funding opportunities for innovative and novel research to create a ‘launching pad’ for promising health-delivery research and the ground-breaking biomedical research that underpins future treatments that we can only dream of currently.
The HRC will also be able to create more opportunities to partner with other health-related agencies and take advantage of new technologies and social media to bring key health research messages into people’s homes and workplaces.
Last year a survey of all the health-related research published by New Zealand researchers showed that HRC-funded research achieved double the world average for scientific influence in a number of fields, including paediatrics and reproductive medicine, immunology, genetics, and clinical sciences.
Professor McPherson says this shows that the research the HRC invests in is recognised to be of the “very highest quality in the world.”
“Since the HRC was established in 1990 the quality of life for all New Zealanders, and the number of years we can expect to live free from disease and disability, has improved significantly. Our infant mortality rate has declined by 30 per cent, the number of over 65s with disabilities has decreased by 13 per cent, life expectancy has increased by six years for males and three years for females, and survival rates from cancer have doubled since the 1970s,” says Professor McPherson.
“HRC-funded research and research teams have made many of these health gains possible.”
The HRC’s research investment also generates direct economic returns through the development of innovative commercial products, where early discoveries have been taken all the way from patent to patient. These innovative products and treatments include a wireless heart-pump; a cooling cap to prevent brain damage in pre-term babies; a world-first vaccine for rotavirus; a diagnostic tool for bladder cancer; a new treatment for osteoporosis that is 10,000 times stronger than previously available drugs, and more.
Professor McPherson says the timing of this new investment could not be better as it coincides with the government’s announcement today that it is seeking public input on the development of what will be New Zealand’s first health research strategy.
“Everyone has a stake in what New Zealand’s health research priorities will be. I strongly encourage as many New Zealanders as possible to read the public discussion document on the New Zealand Health Research Strategy1 and have their say about the future of health research in this country.”
1 Available on the Ministry of Health website at https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/new-zealand-health-research-strategy